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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
09NASSAU39
2009-01-21 22:35:00
UNCLASSIFIED
Embassy Nassau
Cable title:  

RENEWED OBAMA FEVER GRIPS BAHAMAS

Tags:   KPAO  PGOV  PREL  BF 
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VZCZCXRO1909
PP RUEHGR
DE RUEHBH #0039/01 0212235
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 212235Z JAN 09
FM AMEMBASSY NASSAU
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6049
INFO RUCNCOM/EC CARICOM COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
						UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 NASSAU 000039 

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KPAO PGOV PREL BF
SUBJECT: RENEWED OBAMA FEVER GRIPS BAHAMAS

REF: 08 NASSAU 776

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 NASSAU 000039

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KPAO PGOV PREL BF
SUBJECT: RENEWED OBAMA FEVER GRIPS BAHAMAS

REF: 08 NASSAU 776


1. (U) SUMMARY: The Bahamian public and press greeted the
inauguration of President Obama with unbridled enthusiasm,
reveling in the historic nature of the occasion which
transcended social, religious, and political lines. All
major media outlets sent teams of journalists to Washington
to cover inaugural events, some doing live coverage. The
state broadcasting network conducted a "Bahama for Obama DC
Tour", including youth representatives from both major
political parties, to produce TV and radio features.
Ordinary people, commentators, and politicians of all stripes
expressed effusive praise for the U.S. democratic process and
optimism about future policies. Enthusiasm reigned despite
the U.S. economic downturn which has hit the Bahamian tourist
industry hard, and fears previously expressed about potential
impacts of Obama administration policies affecting the
off-shore financial sector (the second most important
industry after tourism). Many viewed the inauguration as a
vindication of Dr. Martin Luther King's dream of racial
equality in the U.S. Some, particularly those favorable to
the governing party, also saw it as a lesson in political
'color-blindness' for Bahamians to emulate in the future,
albeit in reverse. Inauguration fever provided a spike to
the post-November 5 public diplomacy bonanza. END SUMMARY.

--------------
INAUGURATION RIVETS BAHAMAS
--------------

2. (U) The U.S. presidential inauguration was the talk of The
Bahamas. Ordinary business ground to a halt as Bahamians,
just as on election night, gathered around television sets in
homes, bars, and restaurants to watch and cheer the
proceedings. Cable news commentary blared from cafes on the
downtown tourist strip in a scene more reminiscent of
international sporting events. As they have for months,
T-shirt sellers hawked a variety of Obama
inauguration-inspired wares, including the signature "Bahama
for Obama" paraphernalia. Primary and secondary
schoolchildren in a number of public and private schools
gathered in assemblies to watch live TV coverage. Media
coverage was heavy and all-pervasive, including front-page
newspaper headlines, full page photo spreads, and in one
broadsheet the full text of the inauguration speech. Many

editorialists drew lessons for Bahamian politics, as they did
in the wake of the election outcome. The co-host of a
popular radio morning program, like many other Bahamians and
journalists, traveled to Washington to witness the moment
personally.

--------------
UNITES POLITICIANS, PREACHERS, AND PEOPLE
--------------

3. (U) Bahamians from across the political and social
spectrum hailed President Obama as a paragon of
African-American success and a redemptive figure who
triumphed not only over personal obstacles but the historic
injustices of racism and slavery, which is also inextricably
linked to colonialism in the Caribbean. Bahamians viewed the
inauguration of President Obama as a testament to the
strength of American democracy. In the avowedly Christian
and extremely socially conservative Bahamas, notably, even
preachers celebrated the historic victory over negative
historical legacies without regard to cultural or religious
concerns, such as gay rights. Referencing a prominent
pastor,s emotional commentary, one reporter referred to the
inauguration as a "symbol of mental emancipation", in a turn
of phrase that evoked Abraham Lincoln and Bob Marley
simultaneously. An editorial in a daily newspaper assessed
the significance of the Obama story for race relations in the
U.S. and concluded it was a lesson in political
color-blindness, for black Bahamians to emulate in the
future, echoing sentiments expressed by a variety of
commentators since the election resulting in a fair bit of
media controversy. COMMENT: The Deputy Prime Minister and
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Brent Symonette, is a white
Bahamian from a prominent political and business family whose
name is often mentioned as a potential successor to the Prime
Minister, Hubert Ingraham. END COMMENT.


4. (U) In the wake of the inauguration of the first
African-American president of the U.S., calculations of
national interest took a back seat to history and
partisanship was set aside. A leading opposition politician
set up TV screens to allow a primary school audience in his
constituency to view the swearing-in, while a government MP
aired a political spot on radio associating the Obama
inauguration with his own win in a court-ordered recount one
year ago. Ordinary Bahamians also joined the bandwagon.
Some congratulated Embassy staff spontaneously, the illegal
numbers racket (reportedly) did a brisk business in
Obama-associated combinations, and downtown vendors hoped the
Obama enthusiasm would give their souvenir sales a prolonged

NASSAU 00000039 002 OF 002


lift. Bahamians followed the recent U.S. election cycle more
intensely and closely than any in memory due to the candidacy
of an African-American, with the vast majority supporting
Barack Obama (reftel).

--------------
PRESS REACTION OVERWHELMINGLY POSITIVE
--------------

5. (U) Broadcast networks covered the inauguration fully,
and media carried overwhelmingly positive views of the
inauguration of President Obama and the U.S. as a whole:

--The Tribune daily (circulation 15,000) front-page November
21 read "Bahamians celebrate as Obama makes history" and was
followed by three full pages of coverage, with a U.S.
commentary in place of an editorial.

--The Nassau Guardian daily (circulation 15,000), in addition
to front-page coverage and a photo spread, ran a story on
grass-roots reactions titled "Bahamians Proud of United
States" and quoted a well-known pastor and motivational
speaker at length, "Munroe: Obama A Symbol of Mental
Emancipation". An article in the business section, "Obama
too busy to talk tax?", quoted a former finance minister who
speculated that there would likely be no short-term pressure
"to toughen American tax laws" targeting offshore financial
centers, as some Bahamians had feared in the run-up to the
election.

-- The Bahama Journal daily's (circulation 7,500) ran several
stories, one quoting ordinary people and youth, titled
"Bahamians Moved By Change".
ZUNIGA-BROWN